Liguria’s Aquarium of Genoa is Italy’s largest and the world’s second largest. The aquarium facility is located among the attractions at Ponte Spinola, in Genoa’s 16th century historic harbor.

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The 290,000-square foot aquarium is home to over 15,000 animals, representing 600 species. In addition, over 200 species of vegetation are found at the aquarium. The collection represents Europe’s most extensive range of biodiversity in any one location. Exhibits are divided into different ecological areas such as the Mediterranean, the Cold Sea, the Tropical Sea, and Freshwater Pools.

Highlights of the exhibits include The Moray’s Cave. The exhibit greets visitors to the aquarium with a 20-foot tall cylindrical tank that is home to scorpion fish and moray eels. Adjacent to the eel cave are exhibits on sea horses and octopus. The Blue Planet is a new exhibit centered on the importance of water to sustaining life. A large video display is projected onto a map of the world’s oceans, and showcases fascinating marine life from all corners of the world.

The Shark’s Bay is entered through a hologram that offers a preview of the sea life living in the aquarium’s largest tank. The exhibit is also home to sawfish and other species that are native to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Mermaid’s Lagoon is host to the ocean’s largest herbivorous mammals, the manatee. The manatee is an endangered species, and was historically mistaken for mermaids perhaps for the way in which they nurse their young, which is similar to humans. The Aquarium of Genoa is the only aquarium in Italy to host the species, including Tino, who was born at the aquarium in 2015.

Seals Island is home to several common seals, native to the North Sea and to both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Some of the seals were brought to the aquarium for rehabilitation because they were unable to survive in the wild on their own, while others were born there. A small bridge from the aquarium’s second floor allows visitors to view the seals while they are on land.

The World of Corals is divided into three separate tanks that exhibit the world’s endangered coral reefs and their phosphorescent residents as they would look on a full moon evening, and display the baby clown fish, which are regularly born in the aquarium. The Dance of the Jellyfish exhibit is separated into nine tanks, each of which demonstrates a stage of the jellyfish life cycle using jellyfish species from around the world.

History: The aquarium was designed in 1988 by Renzo Piano as part of the world famous architect’s Genoese Seaport design for Expo ’92, a celebration of the 500th year anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in North America. The Genoa Aquarium is managed by Italy’s Costa Edutainment SpA. The company specializes in the combination of education and entertainment, and is Italy’s largest operator of both public and private attractions.

Ongoing Programs and Education: The Deep Sea Room offers a three-minute long virtual reality experience that introduces participants to creatures that live in the deepest realms of the sea, while Fish Making is an interactive digital experience that allows the museum’s youngest visitors to design their own fish. Designs factor in differing colors and shapes, and the fish are eventually placed in a virtual tank to see how they behave.

What’s Nearby: The Aquarium of Genoa is partnered with two additional attractions. The Biodiversity Pavilion is host to a Blue Safari Touch Pool where young guests can gently handle starfish, crabs, skates and other shallow water creatures. This room also includes a tropical exhibit of an Indian Pacific coral lagoon, and an interactive display on the reconstruction of a coral reef. The Biodiversity Pavilion hosts an African tropical forest exhibit that is home to snakes, frogs and geckos, as well as over 150 species of plants native to Madagascar. Discovering the New World focuses on the tropical seas and the clown fish made famous by the movie, Finding Nemo. In the Tropical Garden Room visitors experience the land animals of a Central American tropical forest, where hummingbirds, parrots, and butterflies fly freely among the flowers, and the guests.

The Bigo Panoramic Lift is located on the aquarium grounds and offers stunning 360-degree views of the aquarium facilities and the surrounding harbor. The Galata Museum, located in the same Renzo Piano designed complex offers a look at the maritime history of the region.

Porto Antico Area, Ponte Spinola 16128 Genoa, Italy, website, Phone: +39-01-02-34-51